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Acknowledging the Traditional Land of the Piscataway Indians. Learning Partnerships with Aboriginal Communities: The Benefits and Challenges of Indigenous Community-Based Education (ICBE). by: Margaret A. Brown Seattle Pacific University (USA) Romy R. Pritchard
Margaret A. Brown
Seattle Pacific University (USA)
Romy R. Pritchard
Connecting Cultures (Canada)
Indigenous Communities in Canada
Aboriginal Post-Secondary Education
Indigenous Community Based Education
The Canadian constitution recognizes three distinct Aboriginal groups:
First Nations, Inuit and Métis
All have unique heritages, languages, spiritual beliefs and cultural practices
Aboriginal people make up 4% of the total population
Aboriginal people surpass one million mark (2006 -1,172,790)
There are 203 First Nations bands in British Columbia (BC), 615 bands in Canada
Métis Nation BC has 36 chartered communities in the province – almost 60,000 Métis people
There are over 50,000 Inuit in Canada
57% of Aboriginal people are under age 24.
In BC 7% of Aboriginal people have a university degree compared to 24% of non-Aboriginal people
PSE is key for self government, social, and economic equality for Indigenous people
Indigenous Community Based Education (ICBE) is part of a comprehensive continuum of PSE
ICBE is a hybrid that has evolved out of partnership-based education with Aboriginal groups and post-secondary institutions. This partnership acknowledges that both parties offer important qualities for success of Aboriginal students. The philosophy:
What are the qualities of ICBE including success factors, challenges, and outcomes in post-secondary ICBE?
Quantitative and qualitative approaches: We used both surveys and semi-structured interviews of key community and university partners.
Of 31 people who were contacted, 15 agreed to participate and were interviewed.
The survey assessed three major categories: Preparation, Support, and Outcomes. The scale ranged from 1 (Strongly Disagree) to 5 (Strongly Agree). Higher numbers indicate more agreement with the item.
Lowest Scores were for Preparation
StudentsM = 2.12, SD = .99
e.g., Students were well-prepared to participate in program.
FundingM = 2.89, SD = .58
e.g., There were enough resources to deliver the program.
UniversityM = 2.85, SD = .76
e.g., There were university policies in place that guided the delivery of the program.
Highest Scores were for Program Outcomes
StudentsM = 4.33, SD = .44
e.g., The program enhanced students’ occupational advancements.
CommunityM = 4.11, SD = .78
e.g., The community found the program meaningful to enhancing solutions to local issues.
ParticipantsM = 4.44, SD = .52
e.g., I benefited from my participation in this program.
We took a grounded theory approach to the data (Morse et al., 2009; Strauss & Corbin, 1998), and used NVivo8 to facilitate data organization, coding, and retrieval. Interviews were transcribed line by line, and open coding was done to identify 37 initial codes. These were integrated into 9 axial codes, which were ultimately synthesized into 3 major themes:
Participants repeatedly emphasized that while the costs of ICBE were steep, they were significantly outweighed by the benefits of the work.
Students- “Seeing people transform, you know from where they were, and we did a glance back at the cohort with pictures and kind of their first assignments, and where these now rolled to these practitioners and the transformation is so astounding, so rewarding”
Community- “...the benefits of language work and language revitalization in communities. It is really hard to quantify it so far but it was just so obvious when we worked. Elders just come alive…there is a ripple effect when the Elders start to feel better they start to participate more and that affects the family and when the family starts to feel better that affects the community.”
Faculty- “I just grew in my admiration for them – I just love working with Indigenous communities. I think I grow personally and spiritually when I am in their company and in their community. I feel it is an honour.”
The second theme that arose was the unique nature of ICBE programs, and the adaptations and flexibility needed to execute meaningful ICBE.
University Structures- “For example just getting the students registered because they were not the typical UVic student, the systems at UVic just couldn’t handle them. And so the people had to override the system manually just to get them registered. And this was a huge effort. Every term. It wasn’t that it was once, you had to do that every term. And then because all the students were, their fees were being paid by bands, the band has its own system which doesn’t align with University systems and paying for books and paying for their fees and tuition. All that had to be set up and negotiated.”
Faculty/Programs- “We are talking about developing curriculum, making sure it’s tailored to the needs of your learners and your community. And you know working across a whole bunch of partners. And redeveloping and evaluating and communicating, and supporting in a way that is much deeper.”
Community- “One of the complaints about these types of programs is people drop out of the programs--well of course they do cause they can’t sustain them in their community life! In a small community if you have a leadership role in the community – you choose the community rather than your individual success. That’s the ethos in those communities, in Indigenous communities, I choose the community over myself. So if the program is based on the reverse ethos you must choose yourself over the community and the funding supports that ethos and not the other one, we have – we are creating a dead end situation for some people.”
The final theme that emerged from the data was around future solutions to providing quality ICBE programs.
Planning- “We sort of had a lot of round table discussions after that and realized the importance of having an MoU so that these sorts of things don’t happen in the future. And that there are clear lines of communication that is going on and protocols for sharing information like that.”
Compensation- “You know honorariums…we always budget too shallow for honorariums. Indigenous knowledge needs to be validated and acknowledged just like a consultant would be. That is consulting of the most deepest, powerful, profound type where it comes from deep inside the blood and the genetics of people who have been around for thousands and thousands of years. And it is a different kind of knowledge but we don’t acknowledge it very well. We don’t recognize it, and we don’t legitimize it and validate it.”
Collaboration- “Well I really believe in ongoing connections between the community and UVic, and opportunities to hear from the Elders within the content of the course. I don't think [there is a] UVic solution. What I’ve learned from this project is that the communities want to and should have…choice. How do they want to make the space available? And how can UVic work with them to support, to fill in some of the gaps if possible.”
“I think that we really need to have a hard look at ourselves too. When we start using terms like ‘partners’ I think we really need to be honest about what that really looks like on both ends. Do true partners in any endeavour have much of a resources and financial inequality? What do we do about that inequality? If we can’t even acknowledge it how are we going to change it?”
ICBE costs more in funding, time, resources, and personnel.
We found that ICBE programs are highly successful for student retention and completion of PSE.
Students, communities and those involved in delivering ICBE all benefited by their experience.
Successful ICBE requires commitment, flexibility and the adaptation of university structures and personnel to community life.
Looking to the future, solutions to the challenges of ICBE will require effective planning, collaboration, and appropriate compensations for faculty and community partners.
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